Is Rice Water Good For Plants? (Ways to Use, Tips & Benefits)

Rice is the staple food consumed by most of the world’s population. While cooking rice, we generally clean it with water to remove any inert materials from it. But have you ever wondered about using the leftover water after washing rice?

If you aren’t aware of its uses, rice water is good for your skin and hair as it rejuvenates the skin and strengthens the hair. But what about plants? Can you use this rice water for plants? Is rice water good for plants? Let’s find out now!

Rice water is good for indoor and garden plants as it is rich in nutrients and starch that help in plant growth, reproduction of beneficial bacteria, and deterrence of pests. However, use rice water sparingly and supplement your plants with other organic fertilizers as well.

What is Rice Water?

Rice water is the byproduct of rice and is derived from washing, soaking, or boiling rice. Once the rice is cooked, you can strain the excess water, and this boiled rice water is considered best for soil.

The cloudy suspension formed while you wash the uncooked rice results from the accumulation of starch from the rice grain and other minerals and nutrients. The following table shows the nutrient percentage that gets leached in the rice water.

NutrientsPercentage
Protein7%
Crude fiber30%
Thiamine59%
Riboflavin26%
Niacin60%
Calcium26%
Phosphorous47%
Iron47%
Zinc11%
Magnesium70%
Potassium41%

These are significant amounts of nutrients, indicating that rice water could be an excellent source of liquid plant fertilizer. Moreover, the research has shown that rice water comprises auxins and gibberellins, the hormones responsible for stimulating plant growth. However, the presence of these nutrients varies from varieties of rice, sources of rice, and washing intensity.

How To Prepare Rice Water

Preparing rice water is an easier task. You can make rice water for plants by either soaking or boiling the rice in water or by fermenting the rice water.

1. Preparing Fresh Rice Water

From Soaking:

Making Boiled Rice Water
  • Add rice to a small bowl and add 2-3 cups of water.
  • Rinse rice grains thoroughly and leave them to soak for 30-45 minutes.
  • Now stir the rice and strain the water into a bowl. Use this rice water for plants.

From Boiling:

  • Take uncooked rice and add it to your cooking pot.
  • Add water to it, rinse the rice grains, and discard this water. (You can use this washed rice water as well for your plants)
  • Fill the pot halfway with water and bring it to a boil with the rice for 30-45 minutes.
  • When the rice is done, strain it and collect the water. Use this boiled rice water to feed your plants essential nutrients.

2. Steps to Prepare Fermented Rice Water

  • Fill a sealed glass container halfway with rice water.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar into the rice water.
  • Now add four tablespoons of milk and give it a quick mix.
  • Close the jar’s lid and let the mixture sit for 3-4 days.
  • Once the water gets fermented, it becomes a translucent or opaque mixture, indicating that fermentation is done. This fermented rice water promotes the growth of lactobacilli and helps increase crop yield.

How to Use Rice Water for Plants

Rice water is effective on indoor and garden plants, but its application may vary. It can be used after dilution once every two weeks, depending on the water need of the plant. For using rice water, you can go with different methods based on the type of plant you are supplementing.

Rice Water Spray on House Plants
  • Misting: In misting, the diluted water is poured into a spray bottle and is misted over the plants. You can also use a vaporizer to mist rice water. This method is generally used to water drought plants with minimal water needs, like succulents.
  • Bottom Watering: This method is also called immersion irrigation as the rice water is poured into a wide dish or tray, and the planter is placed on the dish. The water moves up the plant through capillary action via the pot drainage holes, preventing overwatering and standing water in the planter. This is the best method to use for indoor plants.
  • Soil Application: In this method, water is poured with a water can or jug directly on the soil and is the popularly used method. Some of the indoor plants and garden plants are watered using this method.

Quick Tip: The best time to apply rice water is in the seedling stage when the plant starts its growth cycle. This is the phase when plants highly require water and nutrients to increase the crop yield.

How the Contents of Rice Water Benefit Plants

By now, we know that rice water is useful to plants. But how exactly? Let’s see how rice water works to keep the plants healthy.

  • Rice water has essential nutrients along with nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium that get dissolved in the soil and help plant growth. 
  • Rice water has an abundance of starch that boosts plants, protecting them from diseases and pathogens and keeping the plants green and healthy.
  • The carbohydrates in the rice water get stored in the plant cell membrane and help in the fermentation and growth of lactobacilli in the soil. These bacteria feed the mycorrhiza, which aids in nitrogen fixation in the soil, thereby strengthening plant roots.
  • Increased bacteria in the rhizosphere make additional nutrients available to plants, which aid in photosynthesis.
  • The complex sugars in carbohydrates contain hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon and help bacteria break down organic material in the soil into beneficial nutrients for the plants.

Benefits of Using Rice Water for Plants

Rice water has a multitude of benefits both for humans and plants. In plants, rice water can be used as a natural fertilizer, pesticide, and source of irrigation that helps boost the growth of your indoor and garden plants.

Here are a few benefits of rice water for your plants that you need to know before using it.

  • Rice water promotes vegetative growth and protects photosynthetic tissues in plants.
  • It protects the plants from pests and diseases by providing plant nutrients.
  • Rice water can reduce the use of chemicals like NPK fertilizer, thereby preventing environmental pollution and groundwater contamination.
  • Rice water, when used for irrigation, prevents the wastage of water.
  • Rice water is an easily available and cheap source of natural fertilizer.
  • Using rice water for plants helps us repurpose kitchen waste and save water usage.
  • Rice water prevents the burns caused to plants while applying inorganic fertilizers.
  • Rice water increases plant growth and overall crop yield by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the rhizosphere.
  • Rice water has a slightly alkaline pH and helps the plants absorb the nutrients.

Risks of Using Rice Water for Plants

We have seen that rice water is an ally to our plants. But using rice water also comes with some severe concerns. Below are a few risks you need to know before using rice water for your plants.

  • If rice water is used excessively, it might attract harmful bacteria and fungus, thus harming beneficial bacteria in the rhizosphere and causing a severe effect on the plants.
  • If rice water is used in orchids, the carbohydrates can harden the soil, attract pests or cause abiotic stress.
  • Rice water ferments with a high temperature in the soil and accelerates the decomposition of moss and bark. This might cause root rot or some fungal issues in orchids.
  • Rice water alone cannot fulfill the nutrient needs of the plant. You need to supply your plants with organic fertilizers, compost, or NPK fertilizer at least once a year.

Precautions to Take While Using Rice Water for Plants

Preparing Fresh Rice Water

Rice water is great for plants, but it has some ill effects too. Therefore, you need to be careful while using rice water for your plants. Here are some precautions you need to take while using rice water:

  • Do not add salt or other ingredients to the water when boiling rice. Adding salt will nullify all the benefits of using rice water for plants.
  • Water should be at room temperature so that it doesn’t harm soil microbes.
  • Use the bottom watering method or misting to prevent standing water and drainage problems.
  • Use rice water at the limit as overwatering may cause root rot in some plants.
  • Try using fresh rice water to irrigate your plants. However, using stored or fermented rice water once a month is acceptable.
  • You can use any rice variety and type, but do not use scented rice to make rice water for plants.
  • You can use brown rice or white rice for making rice water, but avoid using scented rice as it might contain some harmful additives. You can also make rice water from organic rice varieties for the better growth of plants.
  • Dilute the rice water before using it on your plants (You can use rice water and tap water in the ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 in general)
  • While using rice water on your plants, start with minimal quantity; you can eventually increase the dose.

Is Rice Water a Good Fertilizer?

Rice water is rich in starch and contains trace amounts of NPK and many other nutrients. The carbohydrates in starch are beneficial for the soil microbes, and the nutrients in them help nourish the plants and minimize the use of chemical fertilizers.

A study shows that rice water increases plant height, strengthens plant roots, helps grow the leaves, and is among the best organic fertilizers for succulents, indoor plants, and garden plants.

But remember that some fruit trees and other plants need to be fertilized with other NPK fertilizers once a year as the nutrients alone in rice water will not be enough for their growth.

Is Rice Water a Good Pesticide?

Fermented Rice Water in a Glass Jar

Fermented rice water acts as a pesticide to deter pests like spiders, ants, lizards, and snakes from your garden. In addition, fermentation of rice water exudes a sour-alcohol-like odor that irritates insects like aphids, beetles, plant lice, gnats, and fruit flies.

These pests do not breed on the plants if supplemented with fermented rice water. Also, fermented rice water encourages plant growth by nourishing bacteria and helping their reproduction.

Using Rice Water for Succulents

Succulents

Diluted rice water can be used for succulents. As the succulents generally grow in drought conditions, they require dry, aerated soil. So rice water should be misted in this case.

Succulents require modest amounts of nutrients, and providing them with rice water in the early hours of the day or the evening would help them give beautiful blooms.

During their standard watering regimen, mist the succulents to give them the best benefits while avoiding overwatering conditions.

For misting, dilute the rice water with tap water (1 part of rice water and three parts of tap water) and fill it in a clean spray bottle before spraying it on the leaves.

Plants that Benefit the Most from Rice Water

Rice water is beneficial to most indoor and garden plants. Research conducted by the faculty of agriculture in Malaysia states that washed rice water increases the growth of vegetable crops like spinach, tomato, mustard, eggplant, lettuce, and Pak Choy.

Some studies also show that when rice water is used in rose plants, the number of flowers and the size of their blooms tend to increase.

Also, some indoor plants like the Chinese money plant, snake plant, aloe vera, lucky bamboo, and succulents show positive growth when rice water is used.

How long can rice water be stored to use for plants?

Rice water lasts for 3-4 days if kept open at room temperature. While if it is preserved in the fridge, it can last up to 5-7 days.

How often to use rice water on plants?

Rice water can be used once every two weeks and is ideal for the plants in the seedling stage. Avoid using rice water regularly as the carbohydrates might harden the soil and attract harmful microbes in the soil.

Is Rice water good for Succulents?

Yes, rice water is suitable for succulents as they require moderate amounts of water and nutrients. The nutrients present in the rice water would keep the succulents healthy and help them to bloom well. Remember to mist the succulents with rice water while thinning them before spraying.

Is rice water good for houseplants?

Rice water is good for houseplants as it adds essential nutrients to them. While using rice water on houseplants, use an immersion or bottom watering method to make the nutrients available quickly and eliminate the overwatering conditions in plants.

Can you water plants with cooking water?

Yes, cooking water leaches the nutrients from your vegetables or cereals, gives your plant a good boost with readily available nutrients, and reduces the use of synthetic fertilizers. But you can only use this water unless it is not seasoned with salt or other ingredients. You can use cooked rice water, cooked vegetable water, or eggshell water for your plants.

Is rice water good for compost?

Yes, rice water is an excellent ingredient for compost as it keeps the compost pile moist and adds essential nutrients to it. Rice water helps the healthy microbes in the compost pile accelerate the breakdown of food scraps and other brown materials. Rice water in itself becomes a nutrient-rich starter for composting creatures in substitution for chemical fertilizers.

What are the alternatives to rice water to supplement the plants?

Apart from rice water, you can use coconut water, white vinegar, potato water, compost tea, worm casting tea, seaweed tea, green tea, banana peel water, eggshell water, nettle tea, and dandelion tea to nourish your plants.

Rice water is rich in vitamins and minerals and can supplement the plants with nutrients when used along with organic fertilizers. The starch in rice water is beneficial for bacteria like lactobacilli which help feed mycorrhizal fungi, responsible for disease resistance in plants and strengthening the roots. But remember to use little rice water and not use it for orchids.

So what are you waiting for? Next time you cook rice, don’t forget to make nutritious rice water while washing or boiling rice and use it to water plants. Milk is another nutritious liquid that is commonly used in households. As useful as it is for humans, is milk good for plants? Come with us and find out!